1 (2) Two similar Staffordshire Dogs, King Charles Spaniels from the mid-1900s. On sale at Dreweatts & Bloomsbury

The so-called Staffordshire dogs were one of the hottest décor pieces in England and Scotland in the 19th century. The Staffordshire figures were meant to stand on the mantelpiece as beautiful and fun interior accessories but according to the story, they could also have a completely different function. Often depicted as King Charles Spaniels, a breed that was appreciated by the English court ever since the 17th century and became wildly popular in the 1840s during Queen Victoria's time. But the figurines were also made in the form of completely different, much more exotic animals, such as lions, tigers and zebras.

2 (2) Zebras made at Staffordshire porcelain factory during the mid-1900s. To be found at Dreweatts & Bloomsbury

3 (1) These wonderful lions and tigers from the 1820's are on sale at Christie's

The name derives from the great production that arose in the porcelain factory in Staffordshire from the 1720s onwards, although they were also produced on a smaller scale at other factories around England and Scotland.

So how come the hand-painted dog figures had a slightly more risqué story during the Victorian period? Well, it was said that with time the Staffordshire dogs, also called Wally dogs in Scotland, moved from the mantelpiece to the windows to show off their newfound bourgeoisie. There they stood by the welcoming faces outwards and the tails against each other when the man of the house was at home. When the man of the house went out on the sea or on trips the wives turned the dogs so they stood face to face, which was considered to be indication to her lover that it was "safe".

After World War II, Swedish antiques dealers bought quantities of Staffordshire figurines which they sold to Swedish homes as decorative interior design objects. Estate divisions and careless acts has unfortunately often led to one figurine being separated from the other one and today it is quite rare to find intact couples in perfect condition from the 18/19th century.

A copy made after an old model A copy made after an old model

Today Staffordshire figures are regarded as attractive collectibles and in the UK, a really good pair of Staffordshire figures costs thousands of pounds.

Check out more Staffordshire figures on Barnebys.

In Barnebys archives for previous realised prices at auctions around the world, you will find Staffordshire dogs and other figurines and crafts from Staffordshire!